BJP counts loss as Yeddyurappa quits party

A weak and divided BJP central leadership and the faction-ridden Karnataka unit face an uphill task of retaining power in the state in the coming assembly polls following the exit of former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurppa from the party Friday.

The 69-year-old Yeddyurappa's new party, Karnataka Janata Party which he will formally launch Dec 9, may not gain much in the polls due next May but is certain to severely hit BJP's prospects, already weakened by the scandals that has marred its maiden rule that began in May 2008.

The former chief minister has nothing to lose even if his outfit fails to win a single seat as his prospects of regaining power are bleak in view of the over a dozen cases of corruption and illegal land deals he is battling in Bangalore courts. It is these cases that prompted BJP to refuse the state BJP post to Yeddyurappa, though he has been claiming that party president Nitin Gadkari has promised him that position in return for leaving the chief minister's post last July in the wake of mining bribery charges.

Yeddyurappa had built himself up as BJP's tallest leader in the state after he led the party to power in the May 2008 assembly polls. He had outsmarted his rivals in the party, the most prominent among them being party general secretary and Bangalore South Lok Sabha member H.N. Ananth Kumar, by using caste card to win the 2008 polls.

Yeddyurappa belongs to politically powerful Lingayat community, which accounts for 17 percent of the state's 65 million population. The community is generally believed to be backing the BJP as it felt neglected by Congress ever since Veerendra Patil was unceremoniously sacked as chief minister by then Congress president Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.

However Yeddyurappa's chances of winning a significant number of seats in the coming polls rests heavily on the number BJP legislators joining him. Though nearly half of the ministers in the 34-member cabinet of chief minister Jagadish Shettar and around another 40 party legislators are believed to be loyal to Yeddyurappa, all may not join hands with him.

The BJP has already launched a damage control exercise by promising tickets to all, except four, of the 119 party legislators. But all the 115 legislators may not stay in the party as several of them are said to be tapping the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular on their chances of getting tickets from them.

The BJP is talking of fighting the polls under "collective leadership", an exercise that usually flounders as various leaders try to maximize their clout by undercutting others.
With little guarantee of retaining power in Karnataka, the state unit's affairs may also get only cursory supervision from the BJP central leadership as it itself is in turmoil over party president Nitin Gadkari's alleged improper business dealings.

Yeddyurappa is making every effort to turn the elections into himself versus BJP to the glee of Congress and JD-S, though these parties too are not free from factionalism and caste battles. Lacking a strong leader with an all-Karnataka appeal, the BJP stares at seeing its much-touted launch-pad to rule south India becoming the quicksand of its dreams.

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